Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Republicans act conservative, Trump supporters hardest hit

 Fairly often I get story ideas from scrolling through social media. That was the case recently when I saw a post by a longtime Republican friend on Facebook. I’ll omit the name to protect the guilty party, but I actually LOLed when I read the status message of the friend, who is now a staunch Trump supporter.

Here is what he wrote, presented verbatim:

Facebook screenshot

Let’s take a moment to dissect this. In the first line, my Trump Train friend actually complains that Senate Republicans are acting in a conservative fashion by opposing the $2,000 relief payments proposed by President Trump and agreed to by the House.

That really caught my eye because Republicans are usually criticized for not being conservative enough rather than for acting too conservative.

But what he’s really complaining about is not that Republicans are acting conservatively, it’s that they are acting in a contradictory manner to Donald Trump’s wishes. I suspect that this is a common theme among many Republicans over the past few days.

A lot of my other Trump-supporting friends have had a field day posting “tiny stimulus” memes. I’ve joined in that fun. You can see some of my favorites on The Racket’s Facebook page or on my Common Sense Conservative page. But the gist of most of the Trumpian critiques of the pandemic bill is not that the relief payments represent socialism, as Rand Paul argued, or that it would add to the national debt, but that they weren’t big enough.

The first two are at least conservative arguments. The third embraces the Democratic proposal and simply raises the ante to an arbitrary round number.

To be clear, I did support the pandemic relief bill. I think aid to American businesses and families is vitally important in getting the country through this COVID winter. I’ve said many times over the past year that the pandemic is the rare problem for which the correct solution is to throw money at it. People need to be able to afford to take time off from their jobs, school, or whatever if they are sick or even just exposed to the virus. That’s how we slow and hopefully stop the spread.

But if we are going to spend trillions on a relief bill, it would be nice to target the effort or have some sort of means-testing. Not every American needs a $2,000 check. Others need several such checks.

I’m chasing a rabbit here, but a good way to start would have been to tie relief money to company payrolls and positive test results. To prevent the moral hazard of people purposely infecting themselves to get the payday and increasing the spread of infection, a phenomenon called “the Cobra effect,” there should also be an enforceable quarantine agreement with electronic monitoring.

But I digress.

If we look at the second half of the sentence, we find another common misconception in linking the “Billions to foreign Governments” [sic] to the pandemic relief payments. He is also incorrect to claim that the American people only get a “measly 600 dollars.”

In reality, the two appropriations are separate pieces of legislation as the Tampa Bay Times pointed out. The foreign aid payments were part of an omnibus budget bill while the relief payments were in a separate bill. The pandemic relief bill totaled about $900 billion and included aid to small businesses, unemployment funding, aid to the airlines and schools, rental and nutritional assistance, and a tax credit for employee retention in addition to the direct payments to taxpayers.

There has been talk of a political realignment and this post is an example of it at the grass roots. My friend tacitly acknowledges that Republicans are still at least somewhat conservative and, by extension, that Donald Trump is not. He openly acknowledges that he prefers Trump to the conservatives.

As I noted yesterday, this is not an isolated point of view. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 72 percent of Republican voters want their party to look more like Trump than other elected Republicans. For that reason, I think that the $2,000 payments will ultimately pass. There is a stark difference between Republican partisans and conservative ideologues.

At this point, it looks as though the Republican Party is dead as a conservative party, having become a populist organization in thrall to Donald Trump.

That brings us to the last line of my friend’s post and I have to agree with him. It is a disgrace.

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